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The Coconino National Forest has announced several changes to the reservation system and access policies for the Fossil Creek area, located near Camp Verde, Arizona.

The changes are aimed at increasing accessibility to this popular natural area while also addressing issues with unused permits.

New Permit Reservation System

According to a forest service spokesperson, the Fossil Creek permit system available through recreation.gov has been updated to provide two opportunities to obtain permits. Now, 80% of permits will be released each morning at 8 AM on a rolling one-month basis. For example, starting on July 4th, visitors can reserve permits for dates in August.

The remaining 20% of permits will be released just 3 days in advance, also at 8 AM. So visitors who missed the one month window will have a second chance to secure an August 4th permit on August 1st. Permits are required for the spring and summer season from April 1st through October 1st and are still given out on a first-come, first-served basis with a limit of one per person per calendar month.

Other Policy Changes

In addition to the permit system updates, the forest service has announced other changes for the Fossil Creek area. The popular Waterfall Trail and its parking lot have been renamed “Dixon Lewis” in honor of a well-known Tonto Apache elder who lived and worked in Fossil Creek.

Gates leading to the Dixon Lewis lot along with other access lots like Irving/Flume, Tonto Bench, Fossil Creek Bridge, and Homestead will now close daily at 3 PM. Group size has been capped at 12 people per permit. Upon arrival, visitors must show ID to confirm the permit holder is in the permitted vehicle.

Fossil Creek Background

Fossil Creek is considered an ancestral homeland by native Apache and Yavapai peoples, who recognize it as holding heritage sites. It contains cultural history as one of only two National Wild and Scenic Rivers in Arizona. The forest service emphasizes that Fossil Creek offers a remote, rustic experience for visitors, so coming prepared with ample water and supplies is essential. Due to the permit system changes, camping will continue to be prohibited in Fossil Creek from April 1st through October 1st each year.

Cover photo courtesy of: Deborah Lee Soltesz

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